12 Amazing Finish Line Moments
Petter Northug, Nordic Skiing World Championships 2015
Cross-country skiing is one of the hardest endurance sports out there, but Petter Northug showed just how intense it can be when he sprinted from fourth place to take the gold medal at the Nordic skiing world championships. Just meters from the finish line, Northug looked like he'd turned on an invisible turbo booster as he left his competition in the dust.
Jenny Simpson, IAAF Diamond League 2014
Diving headfirst across the finish line isn't a strategy used by most runners, but Jenny Simpson used the dramatic move to take first place in the 1500-meter run to win the Diamond League series and become the “World’s Best Women’s 1500 runner." The World Championship gold medalist says she didn't mean to join the diver's club, but was knocked over near the finish line by a fellow competitor and just rolled with it—literally.
Derek Redmond, 1992 Olympics
Derek Redmond lived out every athlete's worst nightmare when his hamstring snapped mid-step during the 400-meter race at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. As he collapsed to the ground, everyone thought the world record-holder's race was was done. But they didn't know Derek—or his dad Jim. Even though any hope of a medal was lost, Redmond got back up and started limping on one leg to the finish line. As the crowd cheered him on, his dad vaulted over a barrier, sprinted past security and joined his son on the track. With his arm around his father's shoulder, Derek crossed the finish line, dead last but triumphant still.
Damian Hearst, Boston Marathon 2014
Collapsing during a marathon is sadly fairly common, but when Damian Hearst went down just a few hundred feet from the finish line of the Boston Marathon, his story got a surprise ending. First, one runner stopped to help him, then two, and then four people gathered around him. Determined to help him finish, they each lifted one of his limbs and carried him to the end of the race. Once the group got within a few feet of the finish line, they set Hearst back down and all five runners crossed together.
Billy Mills, 1964 Olympics
Running in a pair of borrowed shoes and with a practice time that was a full minute slower than the leader, no one expected Billy Mills to qualify for the finals of the 10,000-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics, much less win. But Mills, an Oglala-Lakota-Sioux American Indian who was orphaned at age 12 and was so poor he couldn't even afford his own equipment, had a lifetime of beating the odds and proved yet again his winning spirit. As the runners came in the home stretch, he sprinted from fourth into first place. The announcers were so stunned by his sudden appearance, they temporarily forgot his name. Not only did he win the gold medal, he set an Olympic record.
Katherine Switzer, Boston Marathon 1967
Katherine Switzer was devastated when she didn't qualify for the Boston Marathon. Yet she wasn't barred from the historic race for a slow time, but rather because of her gender. In 1967, marathon running was strictly a man's sport. But instead of returning to cross-stitching throw pillows, Switzer jumped in the race and ran it anyhow. As Switzer neared the end, a race official determined to make an example of her tackled her. With the help of another (male) runner, she fought him off and crossed the finish line with a respectable time, proving that women can run too. Five years later, "dames" were allowed in the race.
The Jamaican Bobsleigh Team, 1998 Olympics
If you've seen the movie Cool Runnings, the Disney show based off the Jamaican bobsleigh team's story, you know they trained hard and qualified to compete (and had a really catchy theme song). Once there, the team had to borrow sleds from other teams to race and ultimately were disqualified after crashing. But the athletes finished their race by walking down the rest of the track, laughing, shaking hands with fans, and even singing as they finally crossed the finish line—a feat to be celebrated, even if it was on foot.
Abebe Bikila, 1960 Olympics
Abebe Bikila wasn't even supposed to be at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. The marathon runner was added to the Ethiopian team at the last minute after their top competitor fell ill. Once in Rome, he found that Adidas, the sponsor and shoe provider, was out of his size. So he went back to how he'd trained: barefoot. Instead of dirt roads, however, he faced harsh pavement, rocks, and other injury-prone conditions. That didn't stop him from crossing the finish line first, beating out all the other runners in their fancy kicks. He became the first sub-Saharan African to win Olympic gold. When a reporter asked him why he ran without shoes he answered, "I wanted the whole world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism."
Julie Moss, Ironman Triathlon 1982
We're used to seeing our sports heroes perform amazing feats of strength and speed. But when Julie Moss collapsed from dehydration just two miles from the end of the 1982 Ironman Triathlon, she showed what true perseverance looks like as she crawled on her hands and knees, literally dragging her body over the finish line. Even though her collapse meant she came in second, everyone remembers her as a winner for her incredible spirit.
Eddy Merckx, Tour de France 1975
Being punched in the face isn't usually part of competition unless you're a boxer, but that's exactly what happened to cyclist Eddy Merckx when—during the final stage of the Tour de France—he was hit by a fan for unknown reasons. Bloody and vomiting, he crossed the finish line—earning him a second place win—and even accompanied police to file a report against his attacker.
Dave Wright, Commrades Marathon 1978
Ultramarathons are no laughing matter, but "dancing" Dave Wright showed that you could run 50+ miles and still have a sense of humor. He was famous for waltzing over the finish line. And at the end of the 1978 race, he decided to add a cartwheel. In his excitement, he didn't even realize he'd cartwheeled right into the female mayor, officiating over the race in her formal dress and heels. In spite of (or because of?) his gymnastic feat, he got second place.
Dozer the Dog, Maryland Half Marathon 2014
Dogs love running and dogs love chasing people who are running so it made perfect sense why Dozer, a three-year-old goldendoodle, decided to jump his fence and join all the runners in the Maryland Half Marathon. Like a good doggie, he stuck to the course and finished in just over two hours. His look of joy as he crossed the finish line rivaled that of any human runner. Race officials awarded him a finisher's medal and some pet treats before returning him to his owners who had been frantically searching for him.